Initializing Objects with Constructors

Table of contents:

As mentioned in Section 4.5, when an object of class GradeBook (Fig. 4.7) is created, its instance variable courseName is initialized to null by default. What if you want to provide a course name when you create a GradeBook object? Each class you declare can provide a constructor that can be used to initialize an object of a class when the object is created. In fact, C# requires a constructor call for every object that is created. The new operator calls the class's constructor to perform the initialization. The constructor call is indicated by the class name, followed by parentheses. For example, line 11 of Fig. 4.8 first uses new to create a GradeBook object. The empty parentheses after "new GradeBook" indicate a call without arguments to the class's constructor. By default, the compiler provides a default constructor with no parameters in any class that does not explicitly include a constructor, so every class has a constructor.

When you declare a class, you can provide your own constructor to specify custom initialization for objects of your class. For example, you might want to specify a course name for a GradeBook object when the object is created, as in

GradeBook myGradeBook =
 new GradeBook( "CS101 Introduction to C# Programming" );

In this case, the argument "CS101 Introduction to C# Programming" is passed to the GradeBook object's constructor and used to initialize the courseName. Each time you create a different GradeBook object, you can provide a different course name. The preceding statement requires that the class provide a constructor with a string parameter. Figure 4.12 contains a modified GradeBook class with such a constructor.

Figure 4.12. GradeBook class with a constructor to initialize the course name.

 1 // Fig. 4.12: GradeBook.cs
 2 // GradeBook class with a constructor to initialize the course name.
 3 using System;
 5 public class GradeBook
 6 {
 7 private string courseName; // course name for this GradeBook
 9 // constructor initializes courseName with string supplied as argument
10 public GradeBook( string name ) 
11 { 
12  CourseName = name; // initialize courseName using property 
13 } // end constructor 
15 // property to get and set the course name
16 public string CourseName
17 {
18 get
19 {
20 return courseName;
21 } // end get
22 set
23 {
24 courseName = value;
25 } // end set
26 } // end property CourseName
28 // display a welcome message to the GradeBook user 29 public void DisplayMessage() 30 { 31 // use property CourseName to get the 32 // name of the course that this GradeBook represents 33 Console.WriteLine( "Welcome to the grade book for {0}!", 34 CourseName ); 35 } // end method DisplayMessage 36 } // end class GradeBook

Lines 1013 declare the constructor for class GradeBook. A constructor must have the same name as its class. Like a method, a constructor specifies in its parameter list the data it requires to perform its task. Unlike a method, a constructor doesn't specify a return type. When you create a new object (with new), you place this data in the parentheses that follow the class name. Line 10 indicates that class GradeBook's constructor has a parameter called name of type string. In line 12, the name passed to the constructor is assigned to instance variable courseName via the CourseName property's set accessor.

Figure 4.13 demonstrates initializing GradeBook objects using this constructor. Lines 1213 create and initialize a GradeBook object. The constructor of class GradeBook is called with the argument "CS101 Introduction to C# Programming" to initialize the course name. The object creation expression to the right of = in lines 1213 returns a reference to the new object, which is assigned to variable gradeBook1. Lines 1415 repeat this process for another GradeBook object, this time passing the argument "CS102 Data Structures in C#" to initialize the course name for gradeBook2. Lines 1821 use each object's CourseName property to obtain the course names and show that they were indeed initialized when the objects were created. In the introduction to Section 4.5, you learned that each instance (i.e., object) of a class contains its own copy of the class's instance variables. The output confirms that each GradeBook maintains its own copy of instance variable courseName.

Figure 4.13. GradeBook constructor used to specify the course name at the time each GradeBook object is created.

 1 // Fig. 4.13: GradeBookTest.cs
 2 // GradeBook constructor used to specify the course name at the
 3 // time each GradeBook object is created.
 4 using System;
 6 public class GradeBookTest
 7 {
 8 // Main method begins program execution
 9 public static void Main( string[] args )
10 {
11 // create GradeBook object
12 GradeBook gradeBook1 = new GradeBook( // invokes constructor
13  "CS101 Introduction to C# Programming" ); 
14 GradeBook gradeBook2 = new GradeBook( // invokes constructor
15  "CS102 Data Structures in C#" ); 
16 17 // display initial value of courseName for each GradeBook 18 Console.WriteLine( "gradeBook1 course name is: {0}", 19 gradeBook1.CourseName ); 20 Console.WriteLine( "gradeBook2 course name is: {0}", 21 gradeBook2.CourseName ); 22 } // end Main 23 } // end class GradeBookTest
gradeBook1 course name is: CS101 Introduction to C# Programming
gradeBook2 course name is: CS102 Data Structures in C#

Like methods, constructors also can take arguments. However, an important difference between constructors and methods is that constructors cannot return valuesin fact, they cannot specify a return type (not even void). Normally, constructors are declared public. If a class does not include a constructor, the class's instance variables are initialized to their default values. If you declare any constructors for a class, C# will not create a default constructor for that class.

Error Prevention Tip 4 1

Unless default initialization of your class's instance variables is acceptable, provide a constructor to ensure that your class's instance variables are properly initialized with meaningful values when each new object of your class is created.


Adding the Constructor to Class GradeBook's UML Class Diagram

The UML class diagram of Fig. 4.14 models class GradeBook of Fig. 4.12, which has a constructor that has a courseName parameter of type string. Like operations, the UML models constructors in the third compartment of a class in a class diagram. To distinguish a constructor from a class's operations, the UML places the word "constructor" between guillemets (« and ») before the constructor's name. It is customary to list constructors before other operations in the third compartment.

Figure 4.14. UML class diagram indicating that class GradeBook has a constructor with a name parameter of type string.



    Introduction to Computers, the Internet and Visual C#

    Introduction to the Visual C# 2005 Express Edition IDE

    Introduction to C# Applications

    Introduction to Classes and Objects

    Control Statements: Part 1

    Control Statements: Part 2

    Methods: A Deeper Look


    Classes and Objects: A Deeper Look

    Object-Oriented Programming: Inheritance

    Polymorphism, Interfaces & Operator Overloading

    Exception Handling

    Graphical User Interface Concepts: Part 1

    Graphical User Interface Concepts: Part 2


    Strings, Characters and Regular Expressions

    Graphics and Multimedia

    Files and Streams

    Extensible Markup Language (XML)

    Database, SQL and ADO.NET

    ASP.NET 2.0, Web Forms and Web Controls

    Web Services

    Networking: Streams-Based Sockets and Datagrams

    Searching and Sorting

    Data Structures



    Appendix A. Operator Precedence Chart

    Appendix B. Number Systems

    Appendix C. Using the Visual Studio 2005 Debugger

    Appendix D. ASCII Character Set

    Appendix E. Unicode®

    Appendix F. Introduction to XHTML: Part 1

    Appendix G. Introduction to XHTML: Part 2

    Appendix H. HTML/XHTML Special Characters

    Appendix I. HTML/XHTML Colors

    Appendix J. ATM Case Study Code

    Appendix K. UML 2: Additional Diagram Types

    Appendix L. Simple Types


    Visual C# How to Program
    Visual C# 2005 How to Program (2nd Edition)
    ISBN: 0131525239
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2004
    Pages: 600 © 2008-2020.
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